Third generation Pirate proud to represent ECU
McKenzie Shelton enjoys music and theater but plans to be a psychologist like her father.
Her first taste of acting came as a ninth-grader when she entered a Shakespeare contest at North Pitt High School in Bethel. That winning performance sent her to the regional competition, where she performed a monologue and sonnet. Shelton won a free trip to New York to compete in the national Shakespeare contest. “There were 50 kids and only one other freshman,” she said. “I learned a lot just from watching them.”
Shelton is one of 19 incoming freshmen entering East Carolina University in August as EC Scholars – the most prestigious academic scholarship program the university offers.
She has coordinated several shows in Greenville’s uptown music scene including a benefit talent show for her high school art department.
Besides playing guitar and singing, Shelton enjoys keeping fit – which led to a part-time job at the Greenville Aquatics and Fitness Center where she works at the front desk and the children’s play area.
The day after graduation, she’ll leave on a 10-day trip to Italy with a close family friend. “My parents surprised me,” said Shelton, who’s never traveled outside the United States. She’s learning Italian, preparing flash cards with common words or phrases.
After she gets back, she’ll work at the fitness center and help teach a weeklong drama camp with her drama teacher in Ayden. She’s volunteered the past three summers at Emerge, an art gallery in Greenville.
One of the best summer experiences she had was two years ago when she was paired with a camper with Down syndrome at a weeklong camp for people with special needs at Trinity Center in Salter Path. “You learn unconditional love, and how they express how things make them feel,” Shelton said. “It’s not filtered. They don’t hide anything. It’s all very real.”
Shelton will be the third generation in her family to attend ECU, following her mother and grandmother. ECU was always on Shelton’s radar, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted to stay close to home. Being awarded the scholarship made her decision pretty clear.
“I grew up around it; it’s very comfortable,” Shelton said. “I’ve witnessed the advances that ECU has made over the years.”
Right now, she plans a double major in psychology and communications with a minor in film studies. “I want to keep the creative arts in whatever job I eventually do,” she said.
She hopes to pursue a doctorate and eventually work with abused women and children. “I think there is a humanitarian aspect to everything we do. We’re here to serve, help, learn and teach,” she said.
Her visit to ECU’s Honors College and the EC Scholars preview day was welcoming, she said. “There was a panel of students and staff who talked to us. It was very intimate and familial. I liked that family aspect, and that they were watching out for us.”
She’s excited about the living and learning community for honors students in Garrett Hall too. She’s already been on the college’s Facebook page for incoming students and hopes to make friends quickly.
“I’m so eager, grateful and privileged to represent ECU,” said Shelton, who is the daughter of Robert and Suzie Shelton.
-- Crystal Baity